Why Monty Don wants you to let your grass grow long this winter (not a euphemism!)

'Tis the season to stop worrying about your overgrown lawn, it seems

A cottage surrounded by long grass and meadow flowers
(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes Photography)

It's official: Monty Don wants you to let your grass grow long this winter, so you can stop worrying about whether or not you can mow your grass when it's damp with morning dew.

Oh sure, it might sound like one of the more out-there lawn ideas, but there is (we promise) method behind Monty's apparent madness.

And no, it has nothing to do with this year's big rewilding trend. We promise.

Monty Don winter lawn tip

When it comes to gardening gurus, Monty Don's name is pretty high on the list of greats – and not least of all because he taught us how to take cuttings so brilliantly well.

So, when he tells us to do the horticultural equivalent of jump, we do tend to start bopping about the garden like Duracell bunnies. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Brick and flint house with a slate roof, a modern extension and conservatory and mature garden.

(Image credit: POLLY ELTES PHOTOGRAPHY/Future Publishing Ltd)

On this occasion, Monty has turned his attention to our picture-perfect lawns, which many of us have been struggling to keep trimmed as the seasons shift.

And, as it turns out, our struggle is futile; it's actually better, Monty says, to let your grass grow long this winter. So apparently we can forget about that final time to cut grass before winter.

'[You can] keep cutting the grass for as long as it keeps growing,' he muses in his popular gardening blog. 'However, it is better to have the grass too long than too short over the winter months.'

Monty Don wearing navy jacket and smiling

(Image credit: Getty / Colin McPherson / Contributor)

As ever, it seems Monty is bang on the money with his advice.

The Gardening Book by Monty Don | £18 on Amazon

The Gardening Book by Monty Don | £18 on Amazon

Monty Don fans will definitely want to check out his new book, which promises to give readers the basics they need to grow over 100 popular flowers, foods, shrubs, houseplants and more.

'Once the weather starts to drop in temperatures, your grass growth will slow down considerably, and so unless you were experiencing hot weather for most of the winter, it would be hard to let your lawn grow much over that season,' says Chris McIlroy at The Grass People.

'Grass will only continue to grow at temperatures of 10°C and above, so once it drops below this, grass will start to wind down its growth, and although it doesn’t stop completely, it will only grow extremely slowly,' he adds.

'Not even enough to warrant a cut!'

A garden border filled with wildflowers

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Morris Hankinson, director of Hopes Grove Nurseries, goes on to add that longer grass can actually 'act as a natural insulator for the soil beneath it'. 

'This insulation helps protect the roots of the grass from extreme temperature fluctuations, keeping them healthier during the colder months,' he says. 'And, as the grass blades break down, they return valuable organic matter to the soil, which improves soil health over time.'

Morris Hankinson of Hopes Grove Nurseries
Morris Hankinson

Morris Hankinson is the founder and managing director of Hopes Grove Nurseries Ltd, the UK’s only specialist grower-retailer of hedging plants, which he established after graduating with a Commercial Horticulture Degree from Writtle College, Essex in 1992.

Further explaining Monty's reasons for advising you to let your grass grow long this winter, Morris says that longer grass can also help suppress the growth of weeds.

'Dense, taller grass can shade out weed seeds and prevent them from establishing themselves in your lawn,' he says, 'and the dense root system of tall grass holds soil in place and prevents it from washing away during heavy rain or snow.'

The Manor at Hemingford Grey shows a meadowscaped garden filled with wildflowers

(Image credit: Future PLC/Joe Bailey, fivesixphotography.com)

Finally, there is – much as there is with all forms of chaos gardening – a number of planet-friendly perks to letting your grass grow long this winter.

'Taller grass provides habitat and shelter for various wildlife species such as insects, birds, and small mammals,' says Morris, noting that these creatures can help with natural pest control and contribute to your lawn's ecosystem. 

'And allowing your grass to grow longer means you won't need to mow as frequently during the autumn and winter months, which can not only save time but energy too. You'll also spend less money on fuel, maintenance, and equipment for your lawnmower.'


Is it OK to mow slightly wet grass?

Even if you aren't up for letting your grass grow long this winter, it's worth changing your mowing schedule a bit: you'll likely want to avoid mornings when the grass is slightly wet, for example, as it is always best to wait for wet grass to dry before mowing. 

If you do charge ahead with your mower, you'll find that the wet grass clippings clog up the machinery – and that your lawn winds up covered in clumps of wet grass, too. Clumps which, we hasten to add, can smother your lawn if left unraked.

Can you overseed a lawn in autumn?

'Autumn is often overlooked as one of the best times to sow grass seed,' says Chris. 

'Whether you need to maintain an existing lawn by overseeding or starting a fresh one by sowing a new lawn, you can get sowing and growing in October, especially given the temperature spike.' 

But why?

Better Conditions: Soil is much warmer; the air is cooler, and there is more rain. This provides better conditions for germination.

Fewer Weeds: Weed seedlings are more rampant in spring, so your autumn-sown grass will have less competition as it establishes.

Ahead of the game: You are ahead of the game for next season. This means there is no need to reseed in spring since you will have an already established lawn.

Ready for summer: Sowing in autumn means your lawn will develop over winter when you use your garden less. Sowing in spring means your lawn will still be developing in summer, at a time when you want to make the most of your garden.

Less water management: Spring sowing means you have to worry more about hot weather and water availability, as seeds need a constant supply. Cool autumn rain means less water management (and less work for you).

Stronger established lawn by spring: Young grass plants have more time to grow and get healthy before next summer's stress comes. You are giving them a head start to be as strong as possible.

Fewer greedy friends: There is a reduced risk of birds damaging seedbeds due to migration and the availability of other food during autumn and winter.

Should you scarify in autumn?

'We recommend scarifying your lawn during early autumn, at this time of the year, your ground will be warm enough to help your lawn recover and to allow new grass to grow,' says Chris. 

'Avoid scarifying your lawn during winter, or deep into the summer months, when frost or drought could be possible, and your lawn is more susceptible to damage.'

Monty Don adds that now is a brilliant time to 'rake out thatch and moss and add to the compost heap.'

What are the disadvantages of tall grass?

'If you let your lawn become too overgrown, it can become a haven for diseases, pests and look unkempt,' says Morris. 

'Therefore, it's a good idea to maintain a moderate grass height during the autumn (mow every 2 weeks or so) allowing it to grow slightly longer than usual to keep it healthy as we head towards winter.'

Should you mow the lawn in winter?

'During the winter it's best not to mow at all (once the first frost hits) as this will make your lawn far happier come springtime,' says Morris, 'as it won't be under so much stress.'

That's right, everyone: you've basically been given permission to put your mower away and put your feet up for the next few months.

Time to grab a cup of hot chocolate and relax, we think...

Kayleigh Dray
Acting Content Editor

Kayleigh Dray became Ideal Home’s Acting Content Editor in the spring of 2023, and is very excited to get to work. She joins the team after a decade-long career working as a journalist and editor across a number of leading lifestyle brands, both in-house and as a freelancer.